As the temperatures cool and the west winds begin blowing, we are reminded to begin preparing our animals for the upcoming winter winds, snow and freezing temperatures.
For our chickens, we wrap the chicken runs in plastic to prevent the winds and snow inside the run areas. We've found that wrapping the runs allows the chickens to enjoy being out of doors in winter without enduring the freezing winds, drifting snow and issues with freezing combs and wattles.
We provide the chickens with clean fresh water in the morning and again in the afternoon to ensure easy access. We keep plenty of chicken feed available for calories to burn and at times, we give them warmed food on brutally cold days that they seem to really enjoy receiving. We supplement the chickens with dried mealworms, spring mix/lettuce, cabbage leaves and plenty of leftovers throughout the winter months.
What may seem contrary to common sense, we keep the south facing windows open in the coop and two windows in the front of the coop open to help eliminate any issues with moisture, bird dust and to keep fresh air circulating because it's not the cold that matters to the chickens, it's the moisture that causes issues in the coop for the chickens.
Keeping the chicken coops interior dry includes keeping the chicken poo from building up and causing moisture issues, keeping their water in the run and not inside their coop and daily checks to correct any issues of moisture that may arise. We keep their coop clean with new wood chips and their nest boxes with fresh straw. The chickens roost board is lined with pine chips and PDZ to help keep any moisture and odors down inside the coop area.
We provide wide roosts for the chickens to roost that allows for easier balancing, keeping their feet warm and allows the chickens to easily tuck their heads to keep warm. We do not use heat lamps inside our chicken coops - they are not necessary. Heat lamps are dangerous and creates a serious fire hazard.
When we have nice sunny days, we oftentimes allow the chickens to enjoy the day free ranging to enjoy the sunshine and fresh air. We'll plow the snow to expose the grass and allow them access to the hidden treasures they'll find beneath the snow.